by Benjamin Alire Saenz
I picked up this book from the library because it looked different from what I’ve been reading lately. I’ve kind of been alternating between Christian fiction (chick-lit type stuff) and fantasy, and this promised to be neither. A psychological thriller is not in my normal scope of books I pick up, but when I read the description on the cover, I was intrigued, and thought I would give it a shot.
When we open up the book, we meet two characters, Thomas and Claudia, who appear to be normal people at first, but it doesn’t take us very long at all to find out that Thomas is a well-known author and professor with a very dark secret. Claudia is the woman that no one knows about- literally. Raised from the age of 7 by Thomas in the basement of his home, Claudia knows nothing of the world outside of Thomas’s house and garden. During a dinner together, Claudia snaps and stabs Thomas with a knife, and her eyes are slowly opened as her lawyer and a team of detectives try to put together a case that will free Claudia from a lifetime of slavery and disappointment. Claudia, of course, is not even the girls name. We learn that her real name is Gloria, and I quickly became involved in her story, wishing that she could be set free from the mental turmoil her captivity has caused.
While this book was definitely a psychological detective story, it wasn’t the “thriller” it was purported to be. Which was fine with me. I found myself heavily invested in the lives of most of the characters, and I really wanted the good guys to win. The book was beautifully written. The author is also a poet, and this book shows it. Other than the language used by the detectives and the lawyer, there was a beautiful flow to the story, and I kept wanting to turn the page. The conclusion was somewhat satisfying. Loose ends were tied up, and I felt that Gloria was going to be okay in the end.
This was a nice change of pace for me to read. I haven’t really read any detective stories in a long time, and this was pleasantly different, while being familiar. I almost felt as though I was watching an episode of Law & Order as I read the book though. It was a vaguely familiar story, and I wasn’t really surprised by the ending at all. Overall though, it was a good read. I wouldn’t read it again, simply because I know what will happen, and I think that’s the unfortunate effect of detective stories- once you know the answer, reading the book again loses some of it’s thrill.
I would most definitely pick up another book by Benjamin Alire Saenz. He writes beautifully, with plenty of detail, yet not too much detail. I recommend this book with reservations. Someone who has been in an abusive relationship before may be disturbed by what Gloria went through, and there is also quite a bit of language strewn throughout. The bedroom activity, while suggested, is not painted with a clear picture at all. If you’re looking for a gentle psychological thriller, this may be what you’re looking for, as I didn’t find any of the “thriller” content to be there. It was definitely more of a mystery than anything, so I would call it a psychological mystery instead of a thriller.